Oak Leaves

November 11, 2016

Solar Panel

Solar Panels Supply Green Energy for Campus

Alaina Lewis

Down by the Eel River, near the environmental cabin, there is a 32 panel array that tilts toward the sun and provides solar energy. It powers not only the environmental cabin, but also the observatory. 

The panel was purchased by a grant that covered the entire cost and the panel should pay itself off over the course of ten years by selling the energy not used back to Duke Energy. It is moved every season to maximize the amount of energy produced.
The panel produces about 1000 kilowatts of energy per month by converting the energy of the sun, solar energy, into useable, electrical energy. The sun’s light emits photons, a non-charged particle, that strikes the panel. It then displaces an electron from the structure of silicon, the material that constructs solar panels. When this electron is displaced, it then travels to an inverter which moves the energy to the power grid.
The university decided to use solar panels to reduce its carbon footprint and to eliminate the cost of running the cabin and observatory. More of the campus isn’t on a solar grid is due to initial cost and longevity. While solar is cheaper than it once was, it still is not an affordable endeavor. A solar panel can last up to 30 years, with inverters needing to be replaced every 25 years.
The plans for the future of Manchester and green energy are heavily dependent upon cost. “It would be nice to see Manchester become more sustainable,” said Jerry Sweeten, director of Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology.
There are other alternatives to traditional carbon-based electricity such as geothermal and wind. Both are more time intensive and expensive than solar. “I much prefer solar to a wind turbine,” Sweeten said. “The turbine is noisy, and kills a large number of birds and bats.”